5 Blogs Using Visual Content to Smash Engagement Out of the Park

I have been impressed lately – Impressed with a handful of bloggers doing great things with visual social media.

Whether it be their blog or on their Facebook Page or other platforms, these guys are doing it right – using visual content to get noticed, spark engagement, get massive shares and drive traffic.

In this post I show you (visually) why I love these blogs so much – including what they are doing, how they are doing it and why it is so freakin' effective.

What is special about these 5 blogs?

  • They are not salesy or pushy.
  • They breathe community through all of their platforms (including their blog)  and in every part of their business.
  • They provide awesome free content – not just on their blog but on social platforms that suit them as well as being where their audience hangs out.
  • Their fans are truly brand advocates who devour everything they produce (or sell) in a “you had me at the free content kinda way”.
  • They listen to their fans/readers, respect their decisions, ask their opinions and involve them.

So let's jump in and take a look at these blogs.  Some of them may be familiar to you, some may be new, but all are entirely loveable:

5 Blogs Smashing It Out of the Park With Visuals 
#1  Styling You 

I have shamelessly promoted Nikki before on this blog and we are friends.  But I can tell you now, that there are few bloggers like Nikki who can give you a lesson in the right way to blog, build community and engage.

The best blogging lesson you can give yourself is to read her posts at Styling You and cast an eye over her Facebook page or Instagram account and you will see why she is so successful.

Watch and learn people. Watch and learn.

Styling You Website - Image
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Styling You – blog and social media platforms – is one of the best examples of how to create great content and do social media “well” that I know of. Watch and learn from Nikki….

Ladies: the bonus for you, is that if you love a “real girl guide to fashion, beauty and life” then the clothes, shoes, accessories, awesome recipes, cocktails and fashion will have you converted into a “Nikki Fan” pretty swiftly.

Nikki won Australia's Top Blog Competition in 2011 (Sydney Writer's Centre) and she remains one of Australia's most successful bloggers.

I interviewed Nikki in 2011 for this article at Social Fresh. The article still stands as the most grounding, vital advice that I received as a blogger so I want to share it with you.

The only thing that has changed in the article are Nikki's stats (they have, of course, skyrocketed since then 2011).  Nikki is a great example of how to engage and build a community “organically”.

Let's look at what is great about how Nikki uses Visual Content:  

  • Nikki engages really well on her main social platforms (primarily Instagram and Facebook and also YouTube and Pinterest).  As shown in this example, there is always a reminder about what is going on over at the Styling You Blog… with a link.  Nikki is also a great person to watch for ideas about how to create your own, engaging, highly shareable images:
Styling You Image Example - Engaging Images
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Always include a call to action on your image…Nikki knows how to tease her readers over to her blog for more!

  • Nikki always includes a shareable image on the Styling You Blog – if someone pins the image to Pinterest from her blog (which happens a lot) the image immediately allows users to see what it is about – while still encouraging them to click through to the blog for more information.

  • Although the blog is her baby, Nikki is shining over at Instagram – a self-professed keen photographer, she takes a lot of her own images and uses them on her blog as well as Instagram (and Facebook).
  • Nikki has also started to post a lot of mini Instagram videos – in the example below, she has put together a montage of her #everydaystyle posts for the month, and posted it to Instagram Video.  #everydaystyle started when a couple of her readers asked her to show what she wears on a “normal day” when out and about:

  •  After just a week, #everydaystyle changed up a gear when Nikki realised that her readers were sharing their own #everydaystyle photos, so she encouraged them to keep it up, with some wrap-up posts on Facebook and on her blog. Nikki calls it a “No Rules Instagram Challenge” – but it is accessible from any of her platforms.
  • As outlined in the post mentioned above, Nikki recommends that you go where your fans like to hang out and provide content suited for that platform.  Nikki's ability to present her content in different ways for different platforms is quite unique – you will never see her “blast” out the same content on all of the platforms at once.
Every Day Style with Nikki Parkinson from Styling You
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Encouraging your community to share visual content around a hashtag means more engagement, shares and traffic.

#2  Kim Garst (Boom Social)

For those of you don't know Kim Garst (and if you don't, then you should) she was recently named by Forbes in their Top 20 Women Social Media Power Influencers List, as well as  their List of Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.

Kim is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet – and her personality shines through in her posts and in her use of images. Kim “gets” Social Media…and she is in the trenches engaging with her fans, readers and followers every day.

The Boom Social team do a pretty impressive job of excelling across a range of platforms like Google+, Twitter (where Kim has almost 208,000 followers at last count), Facebook and of course her blog, while still maintaining a personal touch.

What strikes me about Kim's content is that it is consistent, very visual and highly highly shareable.

What does Kim do well with visuals?  Many things:

  • She includes original shareable images on her blog and on social platforms – a mix of tips and quotes and how-to images, which are all image-types that get shared the most readily. Here are some examples:
Social Media Tip Image by Kim Garst
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Kim posts Social Media and Business Tips across all platforms – by producing some original images, she can now leverage more shares by making the tips “visual”.

Kim's daily inspirational quotes have me checking them out, whenever they come through my newsfeed:

Inspirational Image from Kim Garst Facebook Page
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Kim shares inspirational images and quotes that are highly shareable – and she posts them consistently.

  • Kim's blog posts include a “title overlay” on a featured image – making it easier for her readers to pin/share images over to Pinterest. The title images give just enough information to the reader so that they know immediately what the article is about without having to rely on a separate description:
Example of Optimized Blog Image using Overlay - Kim Garst
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In this example, Kim uses an eye catching image with a clever text overlay – this gives enough information to (a) know the image is about and (b) dangle the carrot to entice you to take action and CLICK!

 Why is it important to have shareable images on your blog?  Because, Kim's Pinterest Source check shows that image after image (linking back to her blog posts) is being shared to Pinterest from her blog.

Fans are sharing your content organically while you sleep. Do you have “shareable” images like Kim, ready for them to share?

Pinterest Source Check Example - Kim Garst
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By doing a source check at www.pinterest.com/source/yourwebsite.com you can see what types of images are being shared – use this to guide the type of images you host on your website

Remember… we make decisions quicker with images – if you can get the message across with an image you are more likely to get people to take action!

  • Kim engages heavily around images that she posts – she asks questions, invites her fans to comment and to seeks their opinion. She regularly asks fans to have their say (and we all want to have our say, right?) … and she is not afraid to have a laugh!

And that is why, when other brands are complaining that Facebook Reach is dropping, Kim's Facebook Page is still a very healthy 26%.  Boom!

If you need more convincing, read this blog post that Kim wrote about cooking up viral Facebook Posts. It's a keeper!   

#3  Y Travel Blog

Y Travel Blog is also one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, founded by Caz and Craig Makepeace.    Y Travel Blog includes posts about travel tips, travel destinations, inspiration and resources. Caz and Craig have a BIG love of travel. Their motto?  “Travel More. Create Better Memories”.

I talked about Y Travel Blog recently on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.  The couple are currently travelling around Australia and can be found at the hashtag #YTravelOz as well as their blog, Facebook Page and on Instagram.

Y Travel Blog Pinterest Boards
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Y Travel Blog have one of the largest Pinterest followings in the world…as well as a popular blog and strong social media engagement on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

So, what is great about Y Travel Blog?  Other than their following of 4.35 million on Pinterest (and no I am not kidding, and yes this is bigger than most brands in the world) there are many many things that they do well…too many to fit into this post, but I want to share a few.  

Let's start with their use of images and engagement:

  • Caz and Craig encourage their fans to share. All the time. They ask them to share their favourite coffee haunts in a destination they are visiting, or their travel experiences or their favourite travel activity.  They do it consistently and they value the opinions of their “community”.  And. they. do. it. with. images.  They will often attach an image to a question in the newsfeed – the image catches the attention of fans, and the question engages them. It's simple but it works.  Take this one for example:
Y Travel Blog Engagement Image - Road Trip or Resort
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Asking Road Trip or Resort? with the added emotional pull of a gorgeous image can be just enough to get fans talking… Y Travel Blog do this well – they are always using images to encourage engagement.

  • I have talked before about the importance of the 4 words “Take Us With You” when using Instagram. By this, I mean taking your fans behind the scenes, giving them sneak peaks and getting mobile – literally taking them around in your daily life.   Granted,  Caz and Craig are in the perfect space to do this at the moment – they are quite literally travelling, so they take plenty of these types of “Take Us With You” photos.  But, use this as an example for your business – how can you take people “with you”?   Drop the product and service stuff, and focus on the experience you are having. It's not boring, really – people love to feel like they can be a fly on the wall and see what you get up to “around” your business.
Y Travel Blog - Instagram Photo
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I loved this Instagram shot of Caz in her “Camping Office” – on a camping leg of their tour around Australia – it gave me a glimpse into their day…and it's pretty darn cool!

  • And as for Pinterest, well Caz and Craig are definitely smashing it out of the park.  I interviewed Caz recently as a bonus for my program Create Traffic Driving Images.  She recommended a number of tips for Pinterest (and using images generally) including:
    • Use Images Consistently – Caz and Craig use images daily on their blog – their posts are heavy with images.  She recommends including at least one image per day on any social community that you are involved with (boom!).    Their blog posts always include a shareable image.
    • Listen to your community and follow their lead – when Caz and Craig discovered that they were getting huge traffic on Pinterest, they immediately pivoted to focus more time on pinning to Pinterest – while maintaining their focus on trying to get those readers over to their site.  One way they do this is by making sure that there is at least one “Title Image” on each blog post. This is an image that, when shared away from the blog, will stand alone and encourage others to click on it. It conveys what is behind the image, so that when people click the image, they are directed back to the original blog post.
Y Travel Blog Pinned Images
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Caz and Craig include a “title image” with every post to make it more pinnable

#4  Beauty Department 

I stumbled across the Beauty Department one day, while spending some time on Pinterest.  Based around their highly successful blog, they are rockin' it on visual sites, because of the way they present their content. Pinterest is a good fit for them because of the highly visual nature of their content:

Beauty Department on Pinterest
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The Beauty Department is full of image-centric tutorials, infographics and blog title images….all “calling” users back to their blog.

The thing I like about the Beauty Department is their ability to tease and drive traffic. They produce great images, really engaging, that give you a lot of information but just leave a little extra for you to hunt down.  For example, take this image below – when you see it on Pinterest, you are drawn in by the visual and want to learn more.  To do that you need to click through to the source of the image – the Beauty Department blog:

The Beauty Department Image
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Often there will be just enough visual content to get you hooked in to wanting the full instructions! Well played Beauty Department – Well Played!

Whether it is a hair tutorial, a make up tip, a beauty treatment (in an image or an infographic), The Beauty Department have mastered the use of the line “Visit the Beauty Department for the Full Story”… it's hard to resist seeing what is behind the image.

#5  Wholefood Simply

This is a little cruel on my part actually.  You see, once you see the Wholefood Simply blog there is no “unseeing it”, there is no going back.

Wholefood Simply Facebook Page
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Wholefood Simply is the perfect mix of great content + great images + engaging questions ……………..where was I? I'm hungry.

Once you get into the habit of “checking” what Bianca posts on her Facebook Page you will be addicted. Yes I mean checking.  Because for many of us who got hooked on her recipes, it wasn't enough to rely on Facebook send it through on the newsfeed. We visited her page to check! I can tell you now, that doesn't happen a lot in Facebook land.

I don't have a lot to say about Bianca and her engagement, as you will see what I mean when you go to her Facebook page and look for yourself. She uses simple, beautiful images of her food, coupled with cheeky, teasing taglines and questions.

Bianca's recipes are super easy to make, minimal ingredients and packed with healthy ingredients, no gluten, no dairy.  All perfectly good for you and protein-rich.  I left this part till last as I knew it would make me hungry.

Her simple line “Have you tried it yet?” gets me every time.

My instinctive reaction is to say “No I haven't tried it yet and now I must.”  I found myself tagging friends. They were tagging me. We were hooked.  A page that has me going to the page to make sure I have not missed anything is smashing engagement out of the park, as far as I am concerned.

WholeFood Simply Chewy Chocolate Cookies
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Bianca's simple daily gesture of adding an image of one of her creations with the line “Have you tried it yet” sends her fans into an engagement frenzy!

And there's more:

Whole Food Simply Chewy Chocolate Cookies
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Yes I have made them.  And yes they are good. And it was this image that made me make them.

I often talk about the concept of involving your readers – your fans/readers/community like to have a say, to be heard, to have an opinion….put simply, we like to give our “two cents worth”.  By asking her community to decide which recipes to feature, Bianca gets instant engagement:

Wholefood Simply Image
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When Bianca involves her readers in the choice over which recipes are featured (or created) …the engagement is high!

You know what is interesting about all of these pages? All of them still have very healthy engagement despite Facebook's change in algorithm (which has meant that fans are seeing less of your posts in their newsfeed.

These pages have had some drop in “reach” I am sure, but because their Facebook pages were already based around great engagement and quality content, their current engagement is still very very respectable and much higher than average – no lower than 10% for some of the pages and as high as 26%. And note how none of them “rely” on Facebook, having a strong presence on their blog and other social media platforms.

What does this tell us?  Follow these blogs and their Facebook pages and learn from what they do.  And I apologise for the shopping trips, travel jaunts, cooking frenzies that may ensue (he he, enjoy!).

Which blogs do you love? Are any of these new to you?  Please leave your comments below.

……and yes, I DO want to hear if you create the chewy chocolate cookies, lemon slice or caramel slice on Wholefood Simply.  I want to hear if you love them as much as I do.  

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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc. & Entrepreneur and she is a speaker and trainer on visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.